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Protecting Your Property in Bankruptcy:

One of the schedules of assets and liabilities which will be filed by the individual debtor in a bankruptcy proceeding is a schedule of “exempt” property. Federal bankruptcy law provides that an individual debtor can protect some property from the claims of creditors either because it is exempt under federal bankruptcy law or because it is exempt under the laws of the debtor’s home state. [11 U.S.C.  §522)(b)]. California has taken advantage of a provision in the bankruptcy law that permits each state to adopt its own exemption law in place of the federal exemptions. In other jurisdictions, the individual debtor has the option of choosing between the federal package of exemptions or exemptions available under state law. Thus, whether certain property is exempt and may be kept by the debtor is often a question of state law. Bankruptcy Petition Preparers are specifically prohibited from providing any assistance in the selection of applicable exemptions for debtors. Legal counsel should be consulted to determine the law of the state in which the debtor lives.

The 2005 changes in the Bankruptcy laws changed the manner in which a debtor can select the laws they use to protect their property. You must have made California your home for at least two years in order to use the California exemptions. If you haven’t lived within California for two years, you must use the exemptions from the state where you lived before the two years prior to the time of filing.  There are also new residency requirements for homestead exemptions (the law that allows you to protect the house you own or are buying). Under the new law, you must have acquired your home (or paid for you home with funds from the sale of another home within the same state) within 40 months prior to filing in order to claim that state’s full homestead exemption. If a debtor has not met this residency requirement, the allowed homestead exemption will be capped at $125,000, even if the actual exemption for that state is higher.

The following Exemption Table has been updated pursuant to the April 1, 2007 revisions published by the Judicial Council of the Administrative office of the Courts of California.

This chart is not intended to be legal advice and is only to demonstrate the differences in the systems. WARNING: Laws and regulations are subject to change. As a result, the accuracy of this exemption list is not guaranteed. Check the specific Code Sections of the State of California for any changes.


11 USC §522(d)
(effective 4/1/10)

CCP §704
California - System 1
(updates effective 1/1/10)

California - System 2
(effective 4/1/10)


The debtor's aggregate interest, not to exceed $21,625 in value, in real  property or personal property that the debtor or a  dependent of the debtor  uses as a residence, in a cooperative that owns property that the debtor or a dependent of the debtor uses as a residence, or in a burial plot for the  debtor or a dependent of the debtor.

(Subject to residency requirement)
Real or  personal property you occupy including mobile home, boat, stock cooperative, community apartment, planned development or condo to  $75,000 if single and not disabled; $100,000 for families if no other member has a homestead (if only one spouse files, may exempt one-half of amount if home held as community property and all of amount if home held as tenants in common; $175,000 if 65 or older, or  physically or mentally disabled; $175,000 if 55 or older, single & earn under $15,000 or married & earn under $20,000 & creditors seek to force the sale of your home; sale proceeds exempt  for 6 months after received (husband and wife may not double)

May file homestead declaration

Real or  personal property, including co-op, used as residence to $22075;  unused portion of homestead may be applied to any property. See Wild Card Below.


Unmatured life insurance contract other than credit life insurance

Accrued dividend or interest under, or loan value of, unmatured life insurance contract owned by the debtor under which the insured is the debtor or an individual of whom the debtor is a dependent, not to exceed $11,525 less any amount of property of the estate transferred in the manner specified in Section 542(d),

Life insurance payment under contract that insured the life of an individual of whom the debtor was a dependent on date of death, to the extent reasonably necessary.

Disability or  health benefits

Fidelity bonds

Fraternal  unemployment benefits

Homeowners'  insurance proceeds for 6 months after received, to homestead  exemption amount

Life insurance proceeds if clause prohibits proceeds from being used to pay  beneficiary's creditors

Matured life insurance benefits needed for support

Unmatured life insurance policy loan value to $11,475 (husband and wife may double)

Disability benefits

Life insurance proceeds needed for support of family

Unmatured life insurance contract accrued avails to $11800.

Unmatured life insurance policy other than credit


Alimony, support, or separate maintenance, to the extent reasonably necessary

Business or  professional licenses, except liquor licenses (708.630)

Inmates' trust funds to $1,425 (husband and wife may double)

Property of  business partnership

Alimony, child support needed for support


Stock bonus, pension, profit-sharing, annuity, or similar plan payment on account of illness, disability, death, age, or length of service to the extent
reasonably necessary.  (See exceptions listed under
11 USC §522(d)10(E)(i)

Veterans' benefits


County employees

County firefighters

County peace officers

Private  retirement benefits, including IRAs & Keoghs

Public employees

Public retirement benefits

ERISA-qualified  benefits needed for support

Personal Property

Household furnishings, household goods, wearing apparel, appliances, books, animals, crops, or musical instruments, not to exceed $550 value in any particular item or $11,525 in aggregate value.

Professionally prescribed health aids.

Jewelry to $1,450.

One Motor vehicle to $3,450

Personal injury recovery on account of personal bodily injury up to $18,450 ( not including pain and suffering or compensation for actual pecuniary loss)

Payment for Loss of future earnings.

Wrongful death recovery needed for support


Appliances,  furnishings, clothing and food needed

Bank deposits from Social Security Administration to $2875; $4,300 for husband and wife.

Building materials to $2875 to repair or improve home

Burial plot

Health aids

Jewelry, heirlooms & art to $7175

Motor vehicle  to $2725, or $2725 in auto insurance if vehicle(s), lost, damaged or  destroyed .

Personal injury  causes of action

Personal injury  recoveries needed for support; if receiving installments, at least 75%

Wrongful death causes of action

Wrongful death recoveries needed for support; if receiving installments, at least 75%

Animals, crops,  appliances, furnishings, household goods, books, musical instruments  & clothing to $550 per item

Burial plot to $22025, in lieu of homestead

Health aids

Jewelry to $1,424

One Motor vehicle  to $3525

Personal injury  recovery to $22075 (not to include pain and suffering or pecuniary  loss)

Wrongful death recoveries needed for support

Payment for Loss of future earnings.

Public Benefits

Award under a crime victim's reparation law

Social security benefits, unemployment compensation, or a local public assistance benefits

Disability, illness, or unemployment benefits

Aid to blind, aged, disabled, AFDC

Financial aid  to students

Relocation benefits

Unemployment benefits

Union benefits due to labor dispute

Workers' compensation

Crime victims' compensation

Public assistance

Social security

Unemployment compensation

Veterans'  benefits

Tools of Trade

Professional books, or tools, of the trade of the debtor to $2175

Tools, implements, materials, instruments, uniforms, books, furnishings, equipment, vessel, one commercial motor vehicle (max. $4850 or $9700 with joint occupation) up to $7175 individually or  $14350 if used by both spouses in same occupation (cannot claim motor vehicle under tools of trade exemption if claimed under motor  vehicle exemption)

Implements,  books and tools of trade to $2200




Public employees vacation credits; if receiving installments, at least 75%

75% of wages paid within 30 days of filing for bankruptcy


Wild Card

$1,150 of any personal property plus up to $10,825 of unused amount of the exemption provided under 11 USC §522(d)(1) of this subsection.


$1,175 of any  personal property plus any unused portion of homestead (exemption, to be partially or wholly applied to any other property.(total maximum wildcard available - $23,250)




We are not attorneys. We are a Debt Relief Agency.
We help people file for bankruptcy under the Bankruptcy Code. We do not provide legal advice.

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